Triplicate Staff

In January, thieves stole a third of a mile of copper wire along a rural road outside Smith River. It was part of more than $100,000 in wire thefts in Del Norte County since late 2011.

Now the utility is offering a $3,000 cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in the thefts.

"This is a serious problem that has been ongoing for more than two years," said Doug Butler, vice president of operations for Pacific Power, in a press release. "Wire theft has spiked over this winter. It creates an unnecessary safety and financial burden on our customers and we are taking aggressive action to stop it."

Removing wire puts crews at risk as they go about their work on the local power grid, Butler said.

"Resulting outages inconvenience our customers, and the thieves themselves are in mortal danger as they perform these criminal acts," Butler said.

Pacific Power is marking its wire for later identification, the release stated, to help link suspects to the stolen wire when they try to sell it.

The reward is offered for information that leads to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of individuals responsible for the crimes, the utility said.

Residents are asked to report any incidents in which they see individuals loitering near service yards, climbing poles or carrying coiled wire when there are no Pacific Power vehicles in the vicinity.

Except during local power outages, Pacific Power crews will not be working at night, the release stated.

Crews use company-marked vehicles, wear company gear and surround any work vehicles with orange safety cones, the release stated, adding that anyone working on power lines or facilities and not clearly identified as sPacific Power crew should be considered suspicious.

Residents who see any suspicious activity around power poles should call911. Anyone who has knowledge of past thefts should call the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office, 707-464-4191.